Is a liquid forming on top of your sourdough starter? What is it, what to do with it, and how to prevent it from happening.
If you have been caring for a sourdough starter for some time now or are brand new to it, you may come across some liquid that is forming on the top of your starter.
Sometimes it will even separate on the bottom or in the middle.
What is it and why does this happen?
What is it?
The liquid that can form on top of our starters is referred to as hooch. And it is completely normal.
It's a natural alcohol that can develop from the yeast in the starter. It is harmless and not a sign that your starter has gone bad.
The only time a starter should be thrown out is if it develops any shade of pink, orange or signs of mold. These three things are death to a starter and it should be tossed immediately.
Hooch however, is not reason for concern. Your starter is still healthy!
Why Does this Happen?
Hooch develops when a starter has ran out of food to consume.
A sourdough starter grows by the wild yeast feeding on the flour. When it runs out of things to consume, is when the hooch starts to develop.
What do you do with it?
This decision is up to you! Hooch can be stirred back in or poured out.
Stir back into the starter:
If there is only a little bit, it is best to just stir it back in before feeding.
Hooch does have a tang to it so if you are looking for a strong taste in your bread, then stir it right back in.
When to remove it:
- if you don't want the stronger flavor
- if it is starting to turn a dark gray
- if it has been sitting in the refrigerator a long time
- if it smells rancid
How to remove it:
A 100% hydration starter is one that is fed equal parts of flour and water. The water content is then 100%, or equal to, the amount of flour.
If we just remove the hooch we are taking out some of the hydration. If it is just a little bit there really isn't much to worry about. Just pour the hooch out and feed as normal.
However, sometimes it can be a lot of liquid.
In this case, measure the amount being removed (in grams) and add that much water in to make up for it.
For example, if you pour off 50 grams of hooch make sure to add in 50 grams of water and mix.
Then care for and feed as normal.
How to prevent it?
Since hooch develops when the starter is hungry, the only way to really prevent it is feeding more often. If you are only feeding once a day, switch to twice.
Remember, it is harmless and does not mean your starter is bad. It just needs more food.
You can also increase the amount that is feed.
We typically feed our starters at a 1:1:1 ratio. Increase that to a 1:2:2 and that should help extend the amount of time between feedings. It gives the starter more to feed on, and keeps the hooch from forming.
Frequently Asked Questions
The hooch that forms on a starter can either be poured off or stirred back in. If you are removing it, then the same amount of water will need to be added back to your starter to compensate for the loss of hydration.
The liquid that can form either on top, in the middle or on the bottom of a starter is called hooch. It's a natural alcohol that is made from the yeast in the starter. It is normal and not a sign that your starter has died.
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